Dr. Mahwish Sharif, 29, the first doctor in Balochistan suffering from a hearing impairment, overcame a long period of prejudice to finish medical school and be employed as a doctor at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Quetta.
It is the only health facility in the provincial capital for the treatment of respiratory and viral diseases.
Sharif lost hearing at age 4 due to eardrum damage. While talking to the media men, Sharif said that she had always dreamt of becoming a doctor since childhood.
“I used to act as a doctor while playing with my brothers when I was a little girl,” adding, “The white coat that doctors wear and the stethoscopes always inspired me.”
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Although her family always supported her, Mahwish Sharif completed her graduation from Bolan Medical College in 2021 after many long years of discrimination and insensitive comments, including from faculty members.
“I found my teachers often complaining about my hearing disability,” she said. “Even in my last medical exams, they did not allow me to use hearing aids since they thought they were headphones.”
Moreover, she recollected another instance of discernment when she was needed to submit a permission letter for using a hearing aid for an exam she had sat for at the Balochistan University.
“I got the letter and when I went to the professor, who was also head of the department of surgery, he saw me and asked my name,” she added. “I told him my name and he said ‘you can hear, you have submitted a fake letter’.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the number of people living with disabilities in Pakistan varies from 3.3 million to 27 million.
In January 2020, Pakistan approved the Disability Rights Act to give a comprehensive legal framework to secure and promote the rights of disabled people.
“Mahwish Sharif has become a role model for our society where persons with disabilities are even marginalized by their own family members,” Dr. Sadiq Baloch, the medical superintendent at the hospital said. “She has set a new precedent that people with disabilities can also fulfill their dreams.”
Meanwhile, the patient who was under the treatment from Sharif said he did not face any communication problems with her. “She is very caring and loving with her patients and my mother feels more comfortable with Dr. Mahwish than any other doctor,” he added.
Commending the hard work of Sharif, Dr. Noor Qazi, the director-general of the provincial health department of Balochistan said, “While we have allocated a specific quota for persons with disabilities in the medical profession, Dr. Mahwish has fulfilled her dream of getting this job on merit and set a new precedent for others.”